SAN JOSE — Trying to pry injury or lineup information out of Kings Coach Darryl Sutter is an interesting and difficult process.
Sometimes he flat-out refuses to answer. Sometimes he stickhandles around the question.
For example: Based on the line combinations Sutter used during the team’s practice Monday in El Segundo, it appeared that he planned to have left wing Kyle Clifford rejoin the lineup Tuesday as the Kings try to extend their two games to one lead over the San Jose Sharks in the teams’ Western Conference semifinal playoff series. Clifford, who sustained an undisclosed injury in Game 5 of the Kings’ first-round series against St. Louis, skated alongside Colin Fraser and Brad Richardson on Monday.
But Tuesday’s game-day skate at HP Pavilion was optional, making it impossible to guess what the lines will be. Clifford was cagey and wasn’t giving away any information. Asked if he’s eager to play, he replied, “I’m excited, if that’s the case tonight.”
Sutter wouldn’t even go that far. Asked what he expected Clifford to bring to the team, Sutter was stern. “There hasn’t been any announcement that I’m aware of, that he’s coming back,” Sutter said, effectively ending that part of the discussion.
Asked what it would take for him to put defenseman Matt Greene back in the lineup, Sutter wouldn’t be pinned down. Greene hasn’t played since the next-to-last game of the regular season, when he sustained an undisclosed injury that Sutter said was not related to the back surgery that forced Green to miss most of the season.
Greene has been practicing and participating in the morning skates and pregame warmups but hasn’t gotten back into the lineup. That’s surprising because young defensemen Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and Keaton Ellerby have noticeably struggled, and Greene is a veteran who has a physical presence on the ice.
“We had him in warmups the other night, and that’s the direction you go, always,” Sutter said of Greene. “Practice, contact, game-day skates, in warmups. That’s always what you try and do .... There’s younger guys you've got to push. The difference between injured and hurt is something that sometimes you have to explain.
“But with the older guys, veteran guys that you trust, there is a point where they make that decision because they know what it takes.”
Greene has said he’s ready to play, so we’ll see if Sutter takes that into consideration anytime soon.
A few more notes:
Center Anze Kopitar said that in looking back at the Kings’ 2-1 overtime loss to San Jose on Saturday, they want to have more possession of the puck in Game 4 in hopes of creating more chances in the offensive zone.
“To do that, you’ve got to make plays and manage the puck through the neutral zone and get in their zone,” he said. “We can do that better.”
Defenseman Drew Doughty said the Kings were prepared for another fierce battle Tuesday night at HP Pavilion, where the Sharks lost only two games in regulation this season and are 3-0 in the playoffs. Game 5 will be played on Thursday at Staples Center, with Game 6 -- if necessary -- scheduled for Sunday in San Jose.
“We know how tough it’s going to be to steal one here tonight, but we’re determined to do it,” Doughty said. “We know that if we go back to Staples [leading] 3-1, there’s a good chance we could close out that series. Right now it’s just one game at a time, and tonight’s the most important.”